Some thirty plus years ago, a fellow by the name of Kerry Packer appeared before a House of Representatives Inquiry into Print Media. 

Kerry Packer. Appeared in the House of Reps Inquiry into Print Media in 1991.

The context of the inquiry was that the owner of the main metropolitan newspapers and classifieds, Fairfax, had gone broke.  And with Fairfax having gone broke, Packer was trying to buy into the re-floated business. 

This was a time before the Internet, when newspapers actually made money and lots if it from their classifieds business.  Fairfax’s classifieds business was referred to as the ‘rivers of gold’.

There is a tale to tell here around Malcolm Turnbull who was previously Packer’s in-house lawyer and who, by this stage, had moved on and was representing the junk bond holders of the broke Fairfax.  But that is for another time.

Businessman Kerry Packer with future Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

For his masterclass in its entirety, see the video at the end of this article.

There are some much younger looking folk in it, including one Peter Costello.  However, this is not to delve into the issues of media, but rather the diversion that took place late in the piece when Packer spoke about the risk to Australia from the constant meddling of Australian parliaments and the risk to investments into Australia.  It was a Packer masterclass and should be shown in every school and every parliamentarian induction session. 

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Highlight 1 – when Packer says to ALP curmudgeon John Langmore:

“You seem to be completely unaware of the Constitution of Australia.”

Highlight 2 – when Packer points out that in his lifetime, tens of thousands of laws had been passed but that Australia was not a better place for all those new laws.  He also suggested that for every law passed, another law be repealed.  Packer said:

Every time you pass a law, you take someone’s privileges away from them.

Highlight 3 – again when Langmore accuses Packer of minimising his tax.  To which Packer replied:

I don’t know anyone who does not minimise their tax.
If anyone in this country doesn’t minimise their tax, they want their heads read,
because as a government, I can tell you that
you’re not spending it that well that we should be donating extra!

Which brings me to superannuation wars 2023 when Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones flagged yet more changes to superannuation taxes. 

The proposal is couched in fairness, but the truth is that like drug addicts, the government is in desperate need of more money.

Let’s be honest here.  There are some serious issues with the taxation treatment of superannuation.  As John Kehoe pointed out in the AFR:

A retiree earning $100,000 a year in super fund investment returns typically pays no income tax, whereas a wage earner receiving the same amount pays $23,000 tax

This is neither fair nor just.  But the Government’s problem, as with the same problem for the Coalition, is that they have no credibility when it comes to tax changes and tax reforms. This because they won’t do the work of demonstrating that what is currently being spent is being spent efficiently and effectively.

Within the last six months, it was reported that some $6 billion per annum is lost to fraud in the NDIS and $8 billion per annum is lost to fraud in Medicare.  That’s $14 billion per annum, and not a word has been said or done about this.  No inquiry.  No policy changes.  No ministerial speeches.  No campaign from the opposition.  No major response from government.  Just business as usual. 

Instead, piles of money and political capital are being expended to generate what will likely be less than $1 billion per annum of additional taxes.

Talk about perverted priorities.

There is much wrong and distortionary with the Australian tax system.  It is a train crash.  But until government does the fundamental and hard work of spending reform, tax reform will be seen for what it is.  Just an attempt to pump more water into a leaky bucket.

According to the ABS, for the 12 months to June 2021, the 3 tiers of Australian government managed to generate $810 billion of revenue.  But they spent $970 billion or near half of GDP generating a combined deficit of $160 billion.

Our governments don’t have revenue problem.  They have a spending problem.  Message to Labor, Liberal, National and Greens governments, as Kerry Packer said quite well and clearly:

“you’re not spending it that well that we should be donating extra!”

Here’s the Packer masterclass in its entirety.

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